Using a Multicultural Approach in the Classroom

Jul 4, 2011 by

Multiculturalism, by nature is based on the premise of social equality and an appreciation of all cultures. By advocating a multicultural approach to education, we foster a positive environment that encourages both individual uniqueness and pride in cultural diversity. One of the greatest challenges for teachers is to teach students who come from such a wide range of cultural backgrounds.

Nevertheless, the importance of maintaining cultural diversity in today’s classrooms is absolutely essential in a diverse society where values and experiences remain based on race and ethnicity. In today’s classroom, cultural diversity requires teachers to provide a wide range of learning options, as they seek to meet the needs of all students.

Teachers must be prepared to promote unity among students in their classroom, and at the same time, celebrate cultural differences. Teachers should encourage the promotion of simultaneous inclusion in the educational setting by designing the curriculum to address both the common needs among all students, and the needs of particular cultures in the classroom.

Culture has been described as the “software of the mind.” In his studies of intercultural cooperation, renowned social psychologist Geert Hofstede asserts that all individuals are “mentally programmed” through their culture. The programming “code” is detected through cultural indicators. These include values, which are attributes believed essential for survival; heroes, real or fictional, who exemplify those values; symbols, including gestures, language, and pictures that have special meaning; rituals, which may include religion or table manners; folklore, to include aphorisms, stories and lessons learned, and normsthe societal rules that members follow in order to be accepted and successful within a particular culture. Those who share common mental programming share culture.

When we examine cultural diversity through this lens, it is easy to see why a “melting pot” environment is neither productive nor desirable. Ignoring cultural differences can profoundly impact the learning environment. Diversity is to be valued and respected in the classroom, in order to broaden our understanding of the human experience and enrich us as a society. Sensitivity to cultural codes is a powerful tool for success in a blended society.

Dr. Lynch is an Assistant Professor of Education at Widener University. Dr. Lynch’s scholarship is intended to make a redoubtable, theoretically and empirically based argument that genuine school reform and the closing of the well-chronicled achievement gap are possible. Dr. Lynch is the author of three forthcoming books; Its Time for Change: School Reform for the Next Decade (Rowman & Littlefield 2012), A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories (Routledge 2012), and The Call to Teach: An Introduction to Teaching and Learning (Pearson 2013). He is also the editor of the forthcoming 2-volume set, Before Obama: A Reappraisal of Black Reconstruction Era Politicians (Praeger 2012). He can be contacted at mlynch@mail.widener.edu. He can be contacted at mlynch@mail.widener.edu.

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